My wife and I now live in the Louhu district of Shenzhen. It’s a world away from life in Riyadh, where I had a huge flat (essentially half a villa) and only myself to share it with (for most of the time, though my best friend from the UK, Robin, shared it for a while as we both worked for the same company). In Riyadh there are almost no high-rise buildings as there’s plenty of spare desert to build on at any given time, so with the exception of two giant shopping mall/commercial towers everything tends to be spread out rather than reaching for the sky.
Shenzhen on the other hand has to accommodate over 10 million people (and that’s the official guesstimate – unofficial counts, which include illegal Chinese migrants, range from 12 to 25 million people). It also has to do it without much land, so everybody lives in a tower block.
Our one bedroom flat in Shenzhen would have comfortably fit in the living room back in Riyadh. The bedroom’s big enough for a double bed, which is too short so my feet tend to stick out the bottom of it and a wardrobe and that’s it. The bathroom is tiny but thankfully the shower is in a cubicle and not wall mounted above the loo, as is so common in Chinese flats (this is even true in the new Kingkey 100 building – Shenzhen’s most prestigious location at the moment).
The kitchen consists of four cupboards, two gas burners (there are no ovens in Chinese flats ever) and a sink. And the living room barely houses a two seater sofa and a television.
There’s also a tiny balcony which accommodates our washing machine, there’s not enough room on it to even put down a chair and chill out in the summer evenings. However the view from the flat is not so bad, you can see Hong Kong and the sea (if you use binoculars, squint and hang from the rail by one hand). There’s an endless highway reaching out to the rest of the city, complete with drivers who aren’t happy unless they’re sounding their horns 24 hours a day (did I mention light sleepers don’t sleep here?), and a load more faceless high rise buildings.
It is sadly the high point of living in this apartment, one day we’ll move from here and find a better one but inertia and a lack of funds have the better of us at the moment. It’s worth noting that it is a much nicer flat than my wife would have chosen, and we had a heated disagreement over not renting in her sister’s neighbourhood. But I wanted proximity to some Western style amenities and the metro, both of which were unavailable near her sister’s house – so it’s all my fault we live here.